Most people are interested in their health. This statement requires some clarification. I think it’s safe to say that a majority of Americans place very little emphasis on true optimization of their bodies, but do have interest in avoiding pain and being able to get through the day. I believe a large percentage of our society defines health as “being functional and having minimal pain.” Most would say that they are healthy simply because they have no known disease or condition.
If we dig a little into the true meaning of health, it becomes much, much bigger than how most people have come to understand it. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as… “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” I don’t love the WHO, but I do love this definition. True health involves the physical, mental, AND social aspects of your life. Just being absent of disease and infirmity is only part of the picture. Simply not being sick, by the true definition, does not mean you are healthy.
I feel the need to emphasize this point, because there are two words that have become very popular as departing words these days… “Stay healthy.” In place of good bye, see you later, or take care, people are choosing the words stay healthy. But what does stay healthy mean??? Are people encouraging each other to have complete physical, mental, and social well-being???? No! Stay healthy means… don’t get coronavirus! At this point, if you have not gotten coronavirus, or if you have gotten it and are now better, then you are considered healthy. But are you?
One of our healthcare system’s shortcomings (and there are many) is how the word health has been poorly defined and misunderstood. There is little to no emphasis, attention, or care being given to create that complete physical, mental, and social well-being.
Another reason I wanted to share this whole stay healthy thing with you, is that because ALL of our attention has been focused on avoiding this virus, and because the word health hinges on whether or not you have COVID-19, we have disconnected from optimizing our function, performance, and bodies. Whatever sliver of attention that was on maximizing physical, mental, and social well-being is gone.
What’s even worse, and the main reason I am writing this article, is that in an effort to avoid this virus, we have not only ignored what it means to be truly well, but are doing things that actually cause harm to our true health. We have actually gotten further from being truly healthy. By tying the word health to COVID-19, all of the so-called healthy behaviors and actions to avoid the virus are destroying your physical, mental, and social well-being.
Staying inside, being less physically active, and avoiding the interaction we have with everyday bacteria and viruses are weakening you physically. Watching the over-hyped, fear-mongering news and believing that contracting this virus means death is wrecking you mentally. And being alone, unable to be fully engaged with friends and family is destroying you socially. Your well-being, physically, mentally, and socially is suffering, thus leading you further from being healthy.
So… I want to end by saying… Stay healthy! Yes, I want you to avoid the virus, but I do not want you to do that at the expense of your well-being. Don’t forget to give attention to the things that really do make you healthy!